Afganastáin (Afghanistan)

Britain’s Armed Shame

In Afghanistan soldiers of the RIR, a British Army unit, pose as UVF terrorists in front of an extremist flag

In Afghanistan soldiers of the RIR, a British Army unit, pose as UVF terrorists in front of an extremist flag

In Ireland gunmen of the UVF, a British terrorist organisation, pose in front of an extremist flag

In Ireland gunmen of the UVF, a British terrorist organisation, pose in front of an extremist flag

Members of the EDL, a Far Right movement in Britain, display their support for the British terror factions in Ireland

Members of the EDL, a Far Right movement in Britain, display their support for the British terror factions in Ireland

In Ireland the British separatist terrorists of the state-controlled UVF faction pose for the cameras

In Ireland the British separatist terrorists of the state-controlled UVF faction pose for the cameras

Some time ago I published photos on An Sionnach Fionn featuring British soldiers serving in Afghanistan making Nazi salutes while posing in front of a British terrorist flag. Last week it was taken up by the news media in Britain, in particular the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday newspapers. Now I have images from the so-called Royal Irish Regiment or RIR showing further displays of support for the separatist terror factions of the British Unionist minority community in Ireland. In addition there are photographs showing members of the British Army wearing the regalia of the Orange Order, an oath-bound Protestant fundamentalist organisation violently opposed to the Roman Catholic faith in Ireland, Britain and elsewhere.

During Britain’s decades long counter-insurgency war against the Irish Republican Army many observers believe that there was frequently little to distinguish between British soldier and British gunman, British police officer and British car bomber and witnessing members of the British Armed Forces readily associating themselves with terrorist gangs who inflicted untold misery in Ireland simply adds to that belief. Furthermore the visible proof that the British Army and government permits a sectarian and racist movement like the Orange Order, a “British KKK”, to openly recruit and organise in the ranks of the military says much about Britain’s role in the war that disfigured the north-western edge of Europe.

A British soldier in Afghanistan poses as a British terrorist in Ireland, complete with balaclava mask and RPG7 rocket-launcher

A British soldier in Afghanistan poses as a British terrorist in Ireland, complete with balaclava mask and RPG7 rocket-launcher

Masked British terrorists in Ireland stage a propaganda event for the camera, one holds an RPG7 rocket-launcher

Masked British terrorists in Ireland stage a propaganda event for the camera, one holds an RPG7 rocket-launcher

A British soldier in Afghanistan poses in front of several British terrorist and extremist flags celebrating the conflict in the north-east of Ireland

A British soldier in Afghanistan poses in front of several British terrorist and extremist flags celebrating the conflict in the north-east of Ireland
In Afghanistan soldiers of the British Army wear the regalia of the Orange Order, a Protestant fundamentalist organisation, which promotes the hatred of Roman Catholics in Ireland and elsewhere

In Afghanistan soldiers of the British Army wear the regalia of the Orange Order, a Protestant fundamentalist organisation, which promotes the hatred of Roman Catholics in Ireland and elsewhere

British soldiers in Afghanistan display Orange Order emblems and British Unionist flags

British soldiers in Afghanistan display their racist and sectarian Orange Order emblems and British Unionist flags
British terrorists in Ireland, members of the UVF, in a propaganda pose for the cameras

British terrorists in Ireland, members of the UVF, in a propaganda pose for the cameras

From a British Army base in Afghanistan, a sign mocking Bobby Sands, the Irish political prisoner and elected member of the British parliament who died on hunger strike in 1981

From a British Army base in Afghanistan, a sign mocking Bobby Sands, the Irish political prisoner and elected member of the British parliament who died on hunger strike in 1981

British soldiers of the RIR unit with a flag supporting the anti-Catholic and Protestant fundamentalist Orange Order in Drumcree, 2002

British soldiers of the RIR unit with a flag supporting the anti-Catholic and Protestant fundamentalist Orange Order in Drumcree, 2002

British troops pose in front of a wall decorated with British terrorist symbols during the conflict in the British Occupied North of Ireland

British troops pose in front of a wall decorated with British terrorist symbols during the conflict in the British Occupied North of Ireland

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British Soldiers, Nazi Salutes – The Story We Had First

British soldiers in Afghanistan give the Neo-Nazi-Red-Hand salute of the British terror factions in Ireland

British soldiers in Afghanistan give the Neo-Nazi-Red-Hand salute of the British terror factions in Ireland

The newspapers in Britain are currently debating the significance of images from the conflict in Afghanistan showing serving British soldiers posing in front of the British national flag and the now discarded “Northern Ireland” banner while making stiff-armed Nazi salutes. The Mail on Sunday broke the story which has been taken up by the Guardian and the Express as well as Newsnet Scotland. Of course here at An Sionnach Fionn we posted these photos long ago, including in this article, and we also linked to the source of the images, a right-wing Unionist-supporting fan-club in England called Invicta Loyal, when challenged on the veracity of the photographs.

For more on the tangled relationship between militant British Unionism in Ireland and the Neo-Nazi movement in Britain see my post here.

British soldiers in Afghanistan display Orange Order emblems and British Unionist flags

British soldiers in Afghanistan display their racist and sectarian Orange Order emblems and British Unionist flags

Patterns Of War

A military helicopter flies over British Occupied North of Ireland

A military helicopter flies over the notorious British Army watchtower at Crossmaglen, Armagh, British Occupied North of Ireland

With all the media focus on the rise of a global Big Brother via the Orwellian ambitions of the United States’ NSA (and its smaller British siblings) it is worth noting that other intelligence gathering systems exist, especially those that apply to counter-insurgency operations. The New Republic recently featured an article by Robert Draper focusing on the US Army’s much vaunted Distributed Common Ground System (DCGS-A), a bloated, multi-billion dollar data-collation program designed to gather and analyse tactical information relating to the operations of enemy combatants. In the case of Afghanistan for instance it has the capability of bringing together seemingly random pieces of knowledge about any armed Taliban group to build up a picture of their organisation, membership, methods of attack, bomb-construction techniques, etc. This information can then be used to “map” the insurgents, their bases of support, their family relationships, their supply channels or even patterns of attack (the latter facilitating the laying of traps or counter-ambushes).

Of special interest to us here in Ireland is the rival, civilian-sourced Palantir software system (partially using technology developed by the owners of the online transaction handler PayPal). Boasting superior abilities for half the price the British military and intelligence services have already shown a keen interest in its acquisition. This would tie in closely with Britain’s existing counter-insurgency intelligence systems like Caister, which had such a negative effect on the Irish Republican Army’s operational freedom in the 1990s (the former point obliquely referenced in Palantir’s own company’s blogs – and no doubt at any trade fairs).

“In July 2011, an army combat team known as the Arctic Wolves moved into the Kandahar district of Panjwai, where the Taliban was born and where Osama bin Laden is said to have planned the 9/11 attacks.

…as the Wolves continued to patrol the area in their brand new, supposedly bomb-resistant armored vehicles, they could feel eyes watching them. Insurgents were starting to move into the houses abandoned by the villagers.

…the Arctic Wolves should have had a keen sense of where the enemy was and what it would do next. The Army had developed a sophisticated data platform called the Distributed Common Ground System, or DCGS-A (pronounced “d-sigs A”) for that exact purpose. The multibillion-dollar “system of systems” was built to gather, analyze, and share information from a multitude of sensors and human intelligence sources so that an Army commander could immediately assess the threat in his brigade’s environment. It would reveal the enemy’s history in the territory, the danger zones, names, faces. That was the concept, anyway.

In reality, the intelligence data platform had proved all but useless to the analysts supporting the Arctic Wolves.”

Following a series of successful guerilla attacks on the US Forces using IEDs (improvised explosive devices) the team reached out for help and a regional Planatir sales-rep answered, as one team-member recalls:

“What transpired next was flabbergasting, recalls the intelligence analyst: “We had spent probably a day and a half trying to make a map using DCGS-A. And in my three hours with Palantir, he was able to show ten times more information— breaking it down into charts, showing patterns. We could see a rotation pattern of where [the insurgents] were moving southwest to northeast across Panjwai district. We started to see some connections where there’d been four other unsuccessful attacks with the same type of device in this area that we hadn’t seen before … This was my sixth combat deployment, and I’d never been able to pull that level of detail together, certainly not that fast. I was sitting there like, holy shit.”

As the Irish Republican Army discovered in the late 1980s and mid-1990s, victory or stalemate can be dictated by the patterns of war and those who can successfully interpret them. Much the same techniques are now being employed against the contemporary Republican Resistance, whether the so-called New IRA (NIRA), Continuity IRA (CIRA) or Óglaigh na hÉireann (ÓnahÉ), and with obvious results.

There is more on the company behind Palantir here. For a comparison with known British Intelligence Systems in the north-east of Ireland one can check the heavily-redacted, bare-boned Wikipedia entry or the original, much fuller entry that now only survives at NationMaster. It is up to others to decide why (and by whom) the original Wikipedia article was so drastically edited.

Afghanistan – The Self-Defeating War

Afghanistan - war for the sake of war?

Afghanistan – war for the sake of war?

In Afghanistan the United States and its international allies have staged a formal handover of military and security control in the country to the beleaguered Kabul government led by the president Hamid Karzai. Almost immediately the Afghan leader – infamous for being propped up through “bags of cash” supplied by the CIA – announced that his government will enter formal negotiations with the insurgent Taliban front and invited the various groupings that form the movement to take part in forthcoming parliamentary elections. At the same time the US government confirmed that it will be holding direct talks with the main Taliban groups in the coming days after it agreed to drop several pre-conditions it tried to impose on the leaders of the Afghan insurgency, including a formal repudiation of al-Qaida.

So, after a decade of conflict which has left tens of thousands dead and injured and sparked further violence elsewhere in the world, the Taliban – in one form or another – are now predicted by analysts to return to power again in Kabul sometime in the course of the next five years. Which begs the question: what on earth was the point of the “War on Terror” in Afghanistan?

Lessons From The First Chechen War

afghanistan

Afghanistan

For military analysts like myself the two most interesting conflicts of the last twenty years have been the First Chechen War of 1994-1996 and the Second Lebanese War of 2006. In the former conflict the tiny Chechen Republic of Ichkeria found itself taking on the decaying colossus of the Russian Federation in the aftermath of the collapse of the old Soviet Union. Despite the received wisdom of popular myth guerrilla armies do not always defeat regular armies, no matter how lengthy the conflict. In fact more often than not it is the irregular forces that succumb in one form or another, unless they manage to gain support from significant backers, invariably meaning a nation-state or states.

The United States lost in Vietnam because of the political, military and financial backing for the Viet Cong guerrillas and party in the south by the government of North Vietnam as well as the USSR and the Peoples Republic of China. The USSR was defeated in Afghanistan because of the support for the Mujahideen that flowed from the United States, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Egypt, Britain and China. Likewise the support from Iran for the insurgency in Iraq was a major cause of the precipitous withdrawal of Coalition forces there.The evolving “defeat” (or at least “drawdown”) of NATO-led forces in Afghanistan was and is in part due to the backing of the Taliban / anti-Kabul forces by Pakistan and latterly Iran.

Without a national backer most historic insurgencies simply fizzle out. A notable exception is to be found in Ireland’s War of Independence which was fought by the revolutionary Irish Republic through Sinn Féin and the Irish Republican Army against the United Kingdom of Great Britain and the British Empire as a whole. Despite considerable sympathy around the globe, especially in the United States, Australia, France, Germany and Italy, very little direct aid was supplied to the Irish cause, and none from government sources. Instead the Irish Revolution was largely self reliant and self-sustaining, with help from individual Irish emigrant communities overseas, making its (partial) success all the more remarkable.

In contrast both the Chechen and Lebanese wars mentioned above relied on the succour of one or more nation-states to succeed. The Chechen guerillas had at their core the resources of their former Republic and initially the struggle was fought between two conventional military forces. They also had sympathetic neighbouring states, at least in the early stages of the conflict. When the Israeli Defence Forces or IDF invaded (or was lured into) southern Lebanon in July of 2006 it found itself confronted by Islamic Resistance, the military wing of Hezbollah, a nominally guerilla grouping. However thanks to the military and financial aid supplied by the Islamic Republic of Iran the Israelis were delivered a series of tactical defeats by a force that bordered the line between irregular and regular eventually producing something of an ignoble retreat by Israel.

The links below lead to PDF downloads of chapters from “Russia’s Chechen Wars 1994-2000: Lessons from Urban Combat” by Olga Oliker for the RAND Corporation. They present a detailed military and political analysis of the failures (and successes)  surrounding Russia’s military expeditions in Chechnya.

Contents:

  • Preface PDF
  • Figures PDF
  • Summary PDF
  • Acknowledgments PDF
  • Glossary PDF
  • Chapter 1 Introduction PDF
  • Chapter 2 Grozny I: 1994-1995 PDF
  • Chapter 3 Return to Grozny: 1999-2000 PDF
  • Chapter 4 Conclusions PDF
  • Bibliography PDF

Guns For Hire – From RIC To RUC

In the 1920s, following the British defeat in Ireland’s War of Independence, many serving members of Britain’ paramilitary police force in Ireland, the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC), went on to become “guns-for-hire” throughout the waning British Empire. What they failed to do in Ireland, the defeat of an anti-colonial revolution, they attempted to do in many an outpost of the Pax Britannica. The most infamous of these ex-RIC officers were the former gunmen of the Royal Irish Constabulary Special Reserve (the loathed Black and Tans) and the Auxiliary Division of the Royal Irish Constabulary (the notoriously barbaric Auxies). Many ended up in the Middle East fighting with Britain’s Palestinian Police Force, the Transjordan Frontier Force and other paramilitary outfits against Arab and Israeli nationalists while others served in India and the Far East.

A decade after Britain’s compromise peace in the North of Ireland some former members of the British paramilitary police force in the north-east of the country, the hated Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), are once again turning up in Britain’s overseas conflicts, in an eerie rerun of history. Journalist and Irish civil rights activist Eamonn McCann touches upon this in an article for CounterPunch:

“Norman Baxter may find policing in Kabul these days more congenial than policing in Belfast. The former RUC and PSNI Detective Chief Superintendant is one of a number of senior Northern Ireland police officers who have decided that the new, reformed force is not for them, have taken redundancy and signed up with a private firm of “security consultants” with a contract from the Pentagon to help train the new Afghan police force.

Since leaving the Police Service of Northern Ireland in 2008, Baxter has spoken and written of his anger and frustration at changes which have seemed to him to belittle the sacrifices of Royal Ulster Constabulary in the long fight against the IRA and at policies brought in under the peace process which he believes now hamper the force in its continuing fight against terrorism. A year and a half ago, Baxter joined New Century, founded and led by Belfast-born Tim Collins, a commander in the Royal Irish Rangers.

He has been joined in the upper echelons of New Century by a cluster of colleagues, including Mark Cochrane, former RUC officer in charge of covert training; David Sterritt, a 29-year RUC/PSNI veteran and specialist in recruitment and assessment of agents; Joe Napolitano, 25 years in the RUC/PSNI, retiring as a Detective Inspector running intelligence-led policing operations; Raymond Sheehan, 29 years a Special Branch agent handler; Leslie Woods, 27 years in the RUC/PSNI, with extensive Special Branch handling the selection, assessment and training of officers for covert intelligence-led operations. And many others.”

The whole article is essential reading for anyone wanting to know why the echoes of Britain’s dirty war in Ireland continue to rumble so loudly. And why it continues to be unfinished business.

An Irish-American Story

From the Irish Independent a story on Séamus Ó Fianghusa, an Irish-American soldier who is now the subject of a new documentary on TG4:

“A SERVING US soldier who learned Irish from the internet is the subject of the first ever warzone documentary to be produced as Gaeilge.

Sergeant Séamus ‘Na Gaeilge’ Ó Fianghusa was asked to take part in the documentary by TG4 in 2010 as he began a tour of duty in Afghanistan.

The soldier — who is known by the Anglicised name ‘Fennessy’ to his army buddies — is a member of the famed 69th ‘Fighting Irish’ regiment in New York.

He was born of an Irish father and Korean mother and raised in Brooklyn, but was always conscious of his Irish heritage.

The documentary ‘Dushlan’ (‘Challenge’) follows him from New York to Belfast and Donegal, then onwards to the extremes of the Afghan conflict.

“I would like it to be successful because it highlights the Irish language and culture in a way that is not at all traditional,” he said yesterday as he visited Dublin.

“Irish has an international relevance. Our language is vibrant and capable of change in modern circumstances, as well as having its traditional associations.”

Having learned the language over the internet six years ago, the soldier now considers Ireland — and particularly the Donegal Gaeltacht — his home from home.

The four-part TG4 series ‘Dushlan’ is about different characters captured in a variety of extraordinary circumstances or places.

In Sgt O Fianghusa’s case, that place was Logar province in Afghanistan, where he spent nine months on patrol.

“It’s very different from anything else you would see anywhere else in the world,” he reflected.

“The brotherhood you have with your fellow soldiers, being in life-threatening situations every day, bonds you more than anything else could.

“We endured many violent encounters — being shot at, IEDs — but I never really thought about how dangerous it was until I got home.”

‘Dushlan’ airs on TG4 next Monday at 7.30pm.”